A quarterly survey by the
About half expect sluggish or negative performance, down from 65 percent in October.
The latest survey was conducted
A quarter of respondents also said employment grew at their firms in the fourth quarter, which is comparable to the levels seen in the first half of 2012. The same percentage also reported a rise in wages at their firms in the final three months of the year, up 10 percentage points from the last survey.
Overall sales growth was stable in the fourth quarter with results mixed across industries. For instance, growth slowed in the services, finance, insurance and real estate sectors, but rose in the transportation, utilities, information and communications sectors.
The "fiscal cliff" refers to the steep tax hikes and spending cuts that were to take effect
Despite stable sales growth, survey respondents noted that profit margins deteriorated in the fourth quarter, with 25 percent saying their margins increased, down from 27 percent in October. On the flipside, 18 percent reported declining profit margins, compared with 15 percent a year ago. Over the next three months slightly more than a third said they expect primary non-labor costs to rise. That's down from 43 percent in the previous survey.
Expectations for capital spending over the next year weakened from the last survey. Only 40 percent expect their firms to grow capital spending, down from 52 percent.
For consumers, the survey suggests modest inflation could be in the works, with two-fifths of respondents _ the highest share over the past year _ saying they expect prices to rise in coming months. Most of those expecting hike prices think the increases will be less than 5 percent.
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